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Contradictions emerge during Opry arson trial
Updated on: 01.29.14

On the witness stand Tuesday, former Little Nashville Opry owner Esther Hamilton stated that neither she nor the country music venue were in financial trouble.

“I never owed a dime when the Opry burned,” she said.

On Wednesday, Alan Strange, a forensic auditor with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) testified otherwise.

He said Hamilton and the Opry owed roughly $1.5 million in short- and long-term loans and operating expenses such as utilities, insurance and performer fees on Sept. 19, 2009. That was the day someone poured an ignitable liquid on and near the Opry stage and lit it on fire.

At the same time, the five Opry banking accounts contained a total of about $8,500, according to the ATF.

On day five of testimony, Prosecutor Jim Oliver focused on the gambling habits of Hamilton and the person she called her best friend, 77-year-old James D. Bowyer.

Bowyer is the former Opry business manager on trial for allegedly starting the fire that destroyed the Opry.

Oliver asked Strange to explain his findings from four Indiana casinos. The ATF officer said records from 2005 to 2009 show that Hamilton visited the casinos on 816 days. She spent $4.2 million and lost $152,000.

During the same time frame, Bowyer lost $163,000, while betting $1.7 million during 650 visits, according to Strange.

Hamilton testified that Bowyer did not gamble. She added that she gambled just “a couple times a month” when she got the chance.

Throughout the trial, defense attorney John Boren asked multiple witnesses if they were aware that Hamilton suffered a stroke in May 2013. Those who knew about the stroke indicated that the effects of it continue to linger.

On cross examination of Strange, Boren wanted to know if his investigation showed any evidence that Bowyer owned stock in Little Nashville Enterprises or contracted with the corporation that owned the Opry. Strange answered no to both matters.

Boren got Strange to say that the burning of the Opry differed in outcome from the sale of the Opry. A sale would have resulted in Bowyer receiving roughly $300,000, according to four promissory notes Bowyer wrote that were salvaged from the fire debris.

Strange also agreed that the Opry could have been rebuilt from the more than $3 million in insurance proceeds if the claim had been paid out.

The insurance money was never awarded. A judge ruled in favor of the insurance company because more than 50 percent of the sprinkler system had been dismantled, according to court records.

The trial is scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Oliver said he plans to rest the state’s side of the case by midday.

Read more in the Feb. 5 issue of the Brown County Democrat.

Obituaries
See Full List »

James Lee "Jimmy" Bock, 47
  Brother of Patricia Bock of Nashville

Harry E. Tryon, 72, Indianapolis
  

Viola E. Webb, 100, Hope
  Grandmother of Jeffery (Michelle) Wagers of Nashville

  • September 16
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • September 16
    B.C. Convention & Visitors Bureau
    8:30 a.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 East
  • September 16
    B.C. Board of Health
    7 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane, Nashville
  • September 16
    Nashville Development Review Commission
    6 p.m. Town Hall, 200 Commercial St.
  • September 16
    CSCD Board of Directors
    7 p.m. CSLOA Clubhouse, 8751 Nineveh Road
  • September 16
    Nashville Arts & Entertainment Commission Subcommittee
    2 p.m. Town Hall, 200 Commercial St.
  • September 16
    New 12-step meetings open in Van Buren area
    7 to 8 p.m. Harmony Baptist Church, 3999 Mt. Liberty Road, New Bellesville
  • September 16
    Hopeful Planters Garden Club annual picnic/wiener roast
    6 p.m. Donaldson Farm, 6912 Keith Donaldson Road
  • September 17
    Lake Lemon Conservancy District
    6 p.m. Benton Township Building, 7606 State Road 45, Unionville
  • September 17
    Brown County Commissioners
    6 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • September 17
    Wednesday at BCSP Nature Center
    10 a.m., 2 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 East
  • September 17
    'The November Man' movie at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. Brown County Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren
  • September 17
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • September 17
    A Novel Bunch book club
    1 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • September 18
    Go Club at the library Thursdays
    3:30 to 5 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • September 18
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • September 18
    WRAPS meetings
    7 to 9 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • September 18
    Nashville Town Council
    6:30 p.m. Town Hall, 200 Commercial St.
  • September 18
    Rotary Club
    7:15 a.m. Artist Colony Inn, 105 S. Van Buren St.
  • September 18
    Nashville Literary Club
    1:30 p.m. 1:40 p.m., 2 p.m. Brown County IGA, 30 Hawthorne Drive, or St. David's Episcopal Church
  • September 18
    Brown County Schools Board of Trustees
    5:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. Brown County Intermediate School, 260 Schoolhouse Lane
  • September 18
    CSVFD
    7:30 p.m. CSVFD fire station, 101 Firehouse Road, Nineveh
  • September 19
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • September 19
    Quafftoberfest at music park/campground
    1 p.m. to midnight Bill Monroe Music Park, 5163 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • September 19
    Bean Blossom farmers market Friday
    4 to 7 p.m. St. David's Episcopal Church, State roads 135 North and 45, Bean Blossom
  • September 19
    BucCornEar Fest for Jackson TVFD
    3 to 8 p.m. Jackson TVFD, 4831 Helmsburg Road, Helmsburg
  • September 20
    Quafftoberfest at music park/campground
    9 a.m. to midnight Bill Monroe Music Park, 5163 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • September 20
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • September 20
    BucCornEar Fest for Jackson TVFD
    10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Jackson TVFD, 4831 Helmsburg Road, Helmsburg
  • September 20
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • September 20
    Dedication/celebration of BETA art sculpture
    11 a.m. BETA teen center, 45 S. Jefferson St., behind Miller's Ice Cream and Hoosier Artist at the alley intersection
  • September 20
    'The November Man' movie at the Playhouse
    1 p.m. Brown County Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren
  • September 21
    'The November Man' movie at the Playhouse
    1 p.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m. Brown County Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren
  • September 23
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive at the fairgrounds
  • September 23
    BC Area Plan Commission
    6 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • September 24
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • September 24
    CSCD Board of Directors
    7 p.m. CSLOA Clubhouse, 8751 Nineveh Road
  • September 24
    BC Board of Zoning Appeals
    6 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • September 24
    BC Parks & Rec. Board
    5:15 p.m. BC Parks & Rec. Office, 1001 Deer Run Lane
  • September 24
    Bluegrass festival at music park
    Bill Monroe Music Park, 5163 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • September 25
    Go Club at the library
    3:30 to 5 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • September 25
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • September 25
    Bluegrass festival at music park
    Bill Monroe Music Park, 5163 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • September 26
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • September 26
    Bluegrass festival at music park
    Bill Monroe Music Park, 5163 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • September 27
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • September 27
    Bluegrass festival at music park
    Bill Monroe Music Park, 5163 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • September 27
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • September 27
    Fall family farm day at theraputic horse farm
    10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hope for Hearts Farm Inc, 1005 W. State Road 45
  • September 27
    Women’s Retreat Day
    8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Salvation Army, 168 S. Jefferson St.
  • September 28
    Therapy dogs to listen to readers
    2 to 3:30 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • September 30
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • October 1
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • October 2
    Gospel jam session
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone5181 State Road 46 East, Gnaw Bone
  • October 2
    WRAPS meetings
    7 to 9 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • October 3
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • October 4
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive at the fairgrounds
  • October 5
    Herb barn hosts antique market
    10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Flower & Herb Barn, 5171 Bean Blossom Road, Nineveh
  • October 7
    Magic club
    5 p.m., 6:30 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • October 7
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • October 11
    Free community breakfast at Sprunica church
    8 to 10 a.m. Sprunica Baptist Church, 3902 Sprunica Road
  • October 11
    Second Saturday Village Art Walk
    5 to 8 p.m. Downtown Nashville
  • October 25
    BCSP Halloween activities
    5 to 6 p.m., 8 to 10 p.m. Brown County State Park, 1810 State Road 46 East